Wishing well

A decorative wellhead near the North GardenNo rain in sight. The thunderstorms that have been in the forecast periodically haven’t materialized for us in Bristol since a month ago in June. It’s dry dry dry and even the pond has emptied already just as if it’s sprung a leak. The watering rotations have begun in earnest.The pond is drying up but the waterlilies are still blooming away

I feel sort of hyper conscious about water usage and whenever I suggest that the gardens are alright without a dousing, my co-workers* look at me like they might hiss “Blasphemer!” and start throwing stones. (*Lilah excepted – she doesn’t want to water either.) Admittedly my garden at home suffers somewhat. The blooms on my Clematis ‘Roguchi’ are half the size of the ones here and I almost lost a new Star magnolia last year due to an extended period of miserly neglect. I have a rain barrel at home that is still somehow miraculously half full although I draw exclusively from it to water my parched potted plants. I know the Blithewold gardens need to be on a rigid watering schedule to remain lovely and I know in my heart that mine at home would be happier for it too. The trick is to be careful while being generous. It’s best to water early in the morning – especially if you’re running a sprinkler so that you don’t lose too much to wind and evaporation – and to water really really well and deeply. blurry watering shot - my eyes must have been full of sweat!Here we water whenever we can and most of the gardens are done by hand under the blazing sky which is hot and awful but affords plenty of time for daydreaming and wishing. I wish for a rainspell and a new hat with a fan attachment…

The trees on the property are watered by sprinklers and the web of hoses running around the property amazes me. I’m glad the guys take care of all that because I can’t be trusted to remember to turn off a sprinkler once I’ve turned it on… Blithewold recently received a grant to service and utilize the network of cisterns on the property and yesterday we heard the new pump working for the first time. pumping the cisternDrawing water from a large cistern in the enclosed garden the guys were able to run 2 sprinklers on the Giant Sequoia and one on the Katsuras for a total of about 6-7 hours. Two sprinklers on the Giant SequoiaUnfortunately it’s only a drop in the proverbial bucket since the ground under the Sequoia is still dry deeper than 2 inches or so from the surface. We need more rain to really drench that ground again – and to fill the cistern back up. I think it’s really astounding that the owners of Blithewold had the forethought to conserve water and install these giant underground tanks. Hopefully soon, they’ll all be in working order again and we’ll hear the thrum of pumps occasionally over the buzz of the cicadas.

Making use of the old well on the front lawnWe are also watering with town water and from the wells on the property. The Pump House where we store our tools actually does house the pump for the main well. Dan and Fred used the new portable pump to finally tap the old well on the front lawn today (I don’t know how many years it has been out of commission).

Are you experiencing a dry spell too? What do you do to conserve water?

In other news: The house today has been a veritable hive of activity in preparation for the RI Federation of Garden Clubs’ Flower Show. There are gorgeous arrangements and horticultural specimens displayed all around the first floor of the house. They all look like winners to me – despite some cutting criticism from the judges. Come see!

A stunning Magnolia from Tiverton steals the show

4 thoughts on “Wishing well

  1. What a lot of work it must be to keep everything there watered and healthy! I hope you get a good, drenching rain very soon.

    Where I live the summers are typically very dry and because of this forest fires are always a big concern. The city keeps us on a schedule for sprinkler use to reduce pressure on the water system. I’m just starting a garden so I’ve been very focused on using drought tolerant plants, a lot of mulch, and soaker hoses under the mulch while the plants get established. My one established bed (all plants are at least two years old) thrives on nothing but the occasional rainfall. We’re also getting rid of most of the front lawn, one new bed at a time. We’re in the process of building and installing rain barrels.

    Thanks, Amy! It sounds like your garden is (and will continue to grow to be) perfectly suited to your climate. A lot of work goes into making a garden that thoughtfully but it will be lower maintenance as it gets established. Applause, Applause! -kris

  2. Kris: How big are those cisterns? Definitely a good idea but perhaps a necessity back when the house was built and people depended on themselves rather than their government to provide. If I were ever to build another house, it would have a cistern. A big one! Very dry here also and I am watering in the morning. It is difficult to see plants sizzle and then fizzle but I did buy a new hydrangea ‘Quick Fire’ today. Optimism reigns supreme. Here is wishing you a hat with a fan!

    Layanee, Dan told me that the cistern in the Enclosed garden is about 13′ in diameter and 10′ deep – a good size! I’m sure you’re right that cisterns were a practical necessity back in the days before town water. And I don’t know how old they all are but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Van Wickles had more cisterns installed after their first house was destroyed by a fire… -kris

  3. I have spent the last two days in a rainwater harvesting class. Too bad the class started after the rain stopped. Hat with a fan sounds like a wonderful invention.

    Hi Deb! I hope you’ll soon be able to put into practice everything you learned! -kris

  4. We’re having one of the wettest summers I remember – I’ve never seen it looking so green at this time of year. We’ve had continual storms, cloudbursts, and hail in chunks the size of ice cubes. Watching CNN this morning, someone said something oalong the lines of “If you’re having extreme weather conditions, you can be sure that someone somewhere is experiencing the opposite”. How right.

    Sue, the pendulum swings, I guess. We’ve got storms in the forecast this week – maybe we’ll get a taste of your weather… -kris

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